Dusky green on the back and sides and pale beneath, relatively large head with oblique mouth with lower jaw protruding. Unlike the grass carp, the scales are relatively small with the eye located on the lower half of the head.
Found in both the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, it has also been documented in the Big Sioux River, in the Des Moines River below Red Rock dam and considered to be quite numerous in the Chariton River below Rathbun dam.
Zooplankton and phytoplankton.
93 lbs 8 oz.; 56 in. - Rathbun Reservoir, Appanoose County, June 2012 - Larry Sparks, Mystic, IA
The bighead carp is a plankton eater (microscopic algae) native to Asia. The bighead carp was originally introduced in Arkansas in 1973. By 1982, it was present in the Missouri sections of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers where it is now widely distributed and well established. The bighead carp was first recorded in Iowa in the late 1990’s. Found in both the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, it has also been documented in the Big Sioux River, in the Des Moines River below Red Rock dam and considered to be quite numerous in the Chariton River below Rathbun dam.
The bighead carp is comes from the big rivers of China (Yangtze and Huang Ho) so it has adapted well to the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Using gill rakers to filter plankton and detritus the bighead carp is able to easily adapt to various environments. Both young and adults prefer the lower reaches of tributary streams and overflow waters in the river floodplain. Large concentrations of bighead carp have been observed in the tailwaters of several impoundments.
Netting studies in the Mississippi River conducted by the Illinois DNR have found that bigheads school with paddlefish and may compete with the paddlefish for food. Since bighead eat microscopic food, it is feared they will also compete with young larval native fishes for food. They can get quite large, with individuals over 60 lbs. having been collected.
Recent stream sampling information is available from Iowa DNR's biological monitoring and assessment program.
Loan-Wilsey, A. K., C. L. Pierce, K. L. Kane, P. D. Brown and R. L. McNeely. 2005. The Iowa Aquatic Gap Analysis Project Final Report. Iowa Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Iowa State University, Ames.